RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
PH: 610-277-2900
O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
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Mary's Blog

What Role Does Insurance Play in Home-Sharing?

July 20, 2016 12:46 am


As the sharing economy hits its stride, more every-people are taking advantage of home-sharing platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO. The ease-of-use of these platforms, however, should not detract from insurance considerations, says John M. Huff, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

“Sharing a home, car or even personal items with a complete stranger reflects a new level of trust between buyers and sellers,” Huff said in a statement. “When using companies like Uber and Airbnb, or lesser-known options such as Poshmark and TaskRabbit, failing to understand the insurance implications of these transactions can be costly. The NAIC encourages consumers to share with care.”

To determine adequate insurance coverage, home-sharers should discuss their intentions with their insurance provider, the NAIC recommends. The home-sharer may be required to supplement a standard homeowners insurance policy with additional liability coverage, home-based business coverage, or even landlord insurance.

The NAIC suggests the home-sharer confirm the damaged-related coverage an existing policy offers, as well. Home-sharers may opt to limit rentals to those who can show proof of homeowners, renters or personal liability insurance, so that they will be able to file a claim on the renter’s policy should the renter damage the property.

Most importantly, home-sharers should stay up-to-date on the policies and terms of use of each sharing platform. Home-sharing agreements are apt to change, and often, according to the NAIC.

Source: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Science Behind Grocery Shopping

July 19, 2016 12:46 am


Shopping is a science—one repeat savers know well. The savviest shoppers routinely apply it to recurring household expenses, like groceries, to reap the most savings.

Shopping app Ibotta recently cracked the code to the secrets behind the science of grocery shopping, revealing the best times to shop for everyday items.

Grocery bills, for one, are highest on weekends—the most popular time of week for shoppers. The savings, Ibotta found, are earlier in the week: better prices on beer, wine and ice cream can be found on Mondays and Tuesdays, and discounts on produce are common on Wednesdays.

Shoppers purchasing beer and wine on a Monday can expect up to a 9 percent discount off Saturday prices. The best stores for savings, according to Ibotta:

• Walmart ($7.75/six-pack beer)
• Target ($8.11/six-pack beer)

• Walgreens ($9.23/wine)
• Walmart ($9.39/wine)
• Sam’s Club ($9.61/wine)

Ice cream is also best bought on Monday, when shoppers can save up to 9 percent. Dollar stores, Ibotta found, have the steepest discounts: $3.01 at Dollar General, and $3.26 at Family Dollar.

Produce, on the other hand, is the least expensive on Wednesdays, especially at regional retailers like Albertsons or Food4Less.

Ibotta also pinpointed the purchase preferences of certain cities, with some intriguing findings: the city that purchases the most beer and wine, for instance, is Tampa Bay, Fla.—the “Booziest City.” The “Ice Creamiest City,” based on purchasing trends, is Richmond, Va. Seattle is named the “Healthiest City,” due to its penchant for organic, healthful food purchases.

And Green Bay, Wis., is the “Cheesiest City.” No surprise there!

Source: Ibotta
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Unpacking Summer's Hottest Housing Trends – Pt. 1

July 19, 2016 12:46 am


Housing’s on a hot streak this summer, as more buyers, sellers, investors and renters take advantage of the best real estate season in years.

Three trends are defining the season, according to ApartmentList.com: co-living, micro apartments and tiny houses. In this first segment of our series on these trends, we’ll drill down and unearth the facts behind micro apartments.

Rents can be a major challenge for people living in expensive markets like New York City. Enter micro—less than 400 square feet—apartments, where everything but the bare minimum is shaved away in a centrally-located unit.

The main purpose of a micro apartment is primarily function, though the spaces are made to appear roomier with strategic ceiling height, color and lighting, say the experts at ApartmentList.com.

Most who gravitate towards living in a micro apartment often do so for its amenities, and because they do spend a lot of time outside of home, explain the ApartmentList.com experts. Unlike co-living situations, micro apartments do not necessarily require a membership. Micro apartments have a more “permanent” feel compared to co-living spaces, as well.

The micro apartment trend has taken root in at least one market: Seattle, where a micro apartment development was recently unveiled. According to a blog by former Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn, the 170-square-foot units are affordable for individuals with “moderate” incomes, with an average rent of $575 per month.

McGinn also revealed Seattle's Planning Department continues to hear from builders who are interested in offering micro apartments. McGinn noted the demand for affordable housing in transit-friendly communities will likely continue to expand, especially in markets like New York and San Francisco.

Stay tuned for our upcoming segment, where we’ll dive into the next hot summer housing trend: co-living.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Current Economy Keeps Lid on Mortgage Rates

July 19, 2016 12:46 am


Mortgage rates, slow to react to Brexit, remain below 4 percent.

According to Bankrate.com’s weekly rate report, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate is averaging 3.57 percent, with an average 0.23 discount and origination points. The 15-year fixed mortgage rate is averaging 2.85 percent, with an average 0.20 discount and origination points. The 7-year adjustable mortgage rate is averaging 3.23 percent, and the 5-year adjustable mortgage rate is averaging 3.04 percent. The jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage rate is averaging 3.67 percent.

Borrowers obtaining a 30-year fixed mortgage at the current average rate can expect to pay $905.92 monthly. 

Close to three-quarters of mortgage experts surveyed by Bankrate.com expect rates to rise only marginally in the next week, due to the sluggish state of inflation, interest rates and economic growth globally.

Source: Bankrate.com
 

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The Smart Home Takes a Swim

July 15, 2016 12:46 am


Smart home automation’s dipping into pools.

Many poolside mechanisms, such as the heater, pump and timer, can now be automatically controlled with smart home technology, optimizing energy use and performance and potentially extending their lifespan—a benefit that can result in thousands in saved repair or replacement costs, which are often a burdensome expense for pool owners.

“New automation options eliminate the inconvenience of trips to pool or spa equipment to reset timer clocks and thermostats,” said Kyle H. Chaikin, president of the Northeast Spa & Pool Association (NESPA), in a statement. “Control the pool at poolside, from inside the house, on the golf course or halfway around the world with handy smartphone apps.”

According to the NESPA, pool owners can automate any or all of the following features:

• Chlorine Generator
• Cleaner
• Filtration System/Pump
• Fountain
• Heater
• Jacuzzi/Spa
• Lighting
• Timer
• Waterfall

Pool owners can take automation a step further by assigning control to their pool service provider, Chaikin added.

“Pool and spa automation fits perfectly into any busy lifestyle. You can monitor your pool and poolscape yourself, or you can turn it over to your pool service company who will monitor it in real time, and be able to respond in real time, should any issue develop.

“Automation equipment quickly makes your backyard ready to use right when you are ready to use it, regardless of the season,” Chaikin added. “Owning and operating a pool and spa today has never been easier or more fun.”

Source: Northeast Spa & Pool Association/The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for a Better Backyard

July 15, 2016 12:46 am


(Family Features)—Fenced-in or acreage to spare, a backyard should be worth coming home to. Get inspired to better yours with these tips, courtesy of the experts at Trex (Trex.com).

Light Bulb!
Start by drawing ideas from DIY bloggers, HGTV.com, Houzz.com, Pinterest and other resources. Bookmark the elements that resonate with you most. You’ll soon compile enough inspiration to form a near-complete design for your backyard.

A Helping Hand
Consider hiring a professional landscape contractor if your design is outside DIY ability. A professional can assist with projects like hardscaping or structural building.

Limbo
Factor any maintenance requirements into your design. Incorporate features like all-weather cabinetry, composite decking, shade and storage to keep function high and maintenance low.

Put the Heat On
Enjoy your new backyard any time of day or night with heat- and light-producing fixtures. Most popular now are fire pits and fireplaces, lanterns and tiki torches.

What Rules?
Lastly, be open to mixing up the furniture in your new backyard—a variety of styles outdoors reads inviting, not eclectic. Think outside of the box when it comes to accessories like pillows, tableware, and even artwork, to lend a personalized touch.

Source: Trex.com
 

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Expecting a Storm? Plan-Ahead Tips for Property Owners

July 15, 2016 12:46 am


Preparation is vital for property owners that stand to be impacted by an impending storm—so much so that it can be life-saving even after storm conditions have subsided.  Post-storm cleanup, especially, can be made less challenging with precautionary measures.

“Preparing for bad weather is always wise,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an internationally-recognized association. “While everyone thinks about buying milk, bread and toilet paper before a storm, many people forget about making sure their outdoor power equipment is in order “It's important to keep your equipment in working order, have the right fuel for your generator or chain saw, and know where your safety gear is.”

Kiser and the OPEI suggest property owners plan ahead for a safe cleanup by:

Taking Stock – Take a look at the property and consider what-if scenarios:

• Will the buckling deck survive the storm?
• Will the shed withstand high winds?
• Will that tree fall?

Inspect the equipment you do have and purchase other items, such as a chain saw, reflective clothing or safety goggles, if needed.

Fueling Up – It is common for fuel stations to close in the days following a severe storm. Stock up on the fuel needed to power any outdoor equipment you may be using, including a generator. Bear in mind that for outdoor power equipment, it is illegal to use fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol.

Reviewing – Before the storm hits (and the power potentially goes out), take time to review operator’s manuals of any outdoor power equipment you plan to use for post-storm cleanup. Reviewing this information can help reduce safety risks when operating the equipment.

Staying Safe – To minimize hazards during cleanup:

• Exercise extreme caution when using a chain saw. A chain saw can “kick back” when the chain touches an object, so stand with your weight evenly distributed to both feet, away from the blade. Do not use a chain saw with one hand.

• Keep stable footing when using a pole pruner or saw. Ensure any bystanders and power lines are at least 50 feet away from the area.

• Ventilate portable generators. Do not operate a portable generator inside the home or the garage—doing so can cause buildup of carbon monoxide, which can be lethal. Place the generator outside of the home, away from windows, doors and vents.

Remaining Aware – Note the area surrounding the cleanup zone. Do not allow others (pets, included) in the zone, even if cleanup is just beginning. Stay abreast, too, of physical limitations. Keep hydrated and take breaks, if needed.

Source: Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Surprise! Home Repairs a Common "Shock" for Retirees

July 14, 2016 12:46 am


Pre-retirees often underestimate the expenses they’ll encounter when their working years are over. One of the most common unexpected costs—“financial shocks”—are home repairs, according to a recent survey by the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

“There is still a disconnect between what people think they will do in retirement to manage risks, compared to what approaches retirees actually used,” explained actuary Cindy Levering of the survey.

Most pre-retirees surveyed by the SOA carry mortgage, credit card and auto loan debt—some with $30,000 in addition to a mortgage. An unforeseen home repair, coupled with thousands in debt, could rapidly sap retirement savings.

Home repairs, unfortunately, are inevitable. Downsizing may offload some of that debt, while reserving more funds for unexpected repairs or replacements.

Changing homes in retirement may also be beneficial when considering life expectancy and aging-in-place accommodations. Many pre-retirees surveyed by the SOA expect they will live to age 85—younger than actuarial tables indicate.

“More than half of pre-retirees and retirees estimated their personal life expectancy well below actuarial estimates,” said actuary Anna Rappaport, chair of the SOA's Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks.

Whether 85 or beyond, diminishing capacity and limited mobility related to aging may make performing functions in the current home challenging.

Given the frequency of unexpected home repairs, and that most homes are inadequately designed for aging, changing homes may be the most prudent decision for those nearing retirement.

Source: Society of Actuaries (SOA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Log Homes Experiencing Revival

July 14, 2016 12:46 am


Log homes—an iconic symbol of Americana—are as sought-after as ever, partly because of their environmentally-conscious design and construction.

Log homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Log and Timber Homes Council (LTHC) (LogHomes.org), are erected through a near-zero-waste process, with the entire log purposed in construction. Byproducts of their manufacture are mulch and sawdust, both of which can be used as fuel.

Log homes are also highly energy-efficient, especially if constructed with sealant, according to the LTHC. Logs by nature absorb and radiate heat at optimal times during the day, effectively regulating the home’s temperature—“thermal mass.”

The LTHC is one resource worth consulting for a log home build. LTHC log home builders not only adhere to a code of ethics, but also ensure structural integrity by grading their materials through third parties.

“The log and timber home industry emerged entirely out of consumer demand for this unique style of construction,” said Log and Timber Homes Council Chairman Doug Parsons in a statement. “This distinctive style of home can suit any homeowners’ needs, whether they’re looking for a small cabin for weekend getaways or a multi-million dollar estate.”

Source: National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Where on the Map Can You Find the Most Mansions?

July 14, 2016 12:46 am


Mansions are typically associated with luxury markets, but most of them exist outside high-end enclaves.

Utah, in fact, boasts the most mansions by metropolitan area—homes that have at least 15 rooms (excluding bathrooms and closets), five of which are bedrooms, according to an analysis by SmartAsset (www.smartasset.com).

Provo-Orem, Ogden-Clearfield and Salt Lake City, all in Utah, are the top three metropolitan areas nationally with the most mansions. In the Provo-Orem area, 2.42 percent of houses are considered mansions by SmartAsset’s definition—nearly double the amount in Ogden-Clearfield, which is 1.57 percent. Just over 1 percent (1.44) of Salt Lake City homes is considered mansions.

Rounding out the top 10 metropolitan areas with the most mansions are:

4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. (1.37 percent)
5. Washington, D.C. (1.11 percent)
6. Atlanta, Ga. (1.11 percent)
7. Honolulu, Hawaii (1.02 percent)
8. Orlando, Fla. (0.93 percent)
9. Raleigh, N.C. (0.84 percent)
10. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif. (0.77 percent)

In the market for a mansion? Contact your real estate professional for insight on the mansions available in your area.

Source: SmartAsset
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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